| Home | Warning | Gear | Books | Photography | Hikes | Links | Flora & Fauna | Etiquette | About Me | What's New |



Cooper Forks Canyon - Sierra Ancha Wilderness, Tonto National Forest

Summary: A pleasant hike to some very well preserved 700 year old ruins. Remember, ruins are fragile and irreplaceable, please leave the area as you found it. It is also illegal to remove artifacts (such as potsherds) from these historic sites (though some in the Forest Service manage to get away with it by calling it 'science').
Directions: From Phoenix drive east on Highway 60 almost to Globe. Turn left (north) on Highway 188 (also listed as 88 on maps) and drive 14.4 miles to Highway 288. Turn right on 288 which soon crosses the Salt River on a single lane bridge. After 6.7 miles, turn right onto the well graded, dirt Cherry Creek Road (which is also Forest Road 203). After 8.8 miles at the sign for Coon Creek FR #203 bends right and crosses the creek (straight will take you onto private ranch property). At the 13.3 mile point you reach a sign for the left branching Bull Canyon Road (FR #203A), stay straight on FR #203. After passing the Ellison Ranch, the road becomes considerably rougher and rockier and soon you'll reach a Forest Service sign which reads:
"Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwellings: Prehistoric cliff dwellings are located in several of the rugged canyons within and near the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. They were built between 1280 and 1350 AD by indians known presently as the 'Salado'. Why they chose to utilize this challenging environmental zone is not yet fully understood. Cliff dwellings are fragile and irreplaceable. Please do not climb on the walls, or roofs or cause any other form of injury or disturbance. Violators are subject to arrest, fines and or imprisonment."
At the 22 mile point on the Cherry Creek Road you'll drive down a steep embankment and cross Devils Chasm Creek. Drive another 1.5 miles to a point where the road makes a sharp left turn, park at the small pull off with fire ring on the right (the gps coordinates are UTM 0512429mE, 3744368mN).
Road Conditions: 4-Wheel Drive
Navigation: Moderate
Length: 4-6 hours
Date Hiked: December 2003
Weather Conditions: Cool and Sunny
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the parking area, walk back down the road (south) a short distance and look for an old disused road on the north that leads down to Cherry Creek (which I believe flows year round). Route find upstream (north) along Cherry Creek on one side or the other for about a mile until you reach the prominent side drainage of Coopers Fork which enters from the right. Don't walk up Coopers Fork, instead look for a faint path that begins just north of the creek mouth. Take the time to locate this trail since it will make the hike considerably easier. The path is quite steep in places as it gains 1000+ feet in the next mile or so. It is also somewhat difficult to follow in places, particularly where it crosses or climbs rock strewn slopes. Once at the ruins you will find several well preserved structures as well as a few crumbling walls. Potsherds litter the ground, so be very careful where you walk. At the risk of nagging, do not climb on the walls to enter the structures, there's nothing in them anyway. If you are unable to control your curiosity, and are willing to risk a fall, you can do a bit of fancy footwork to climb on the nearby rocks and get a glimpse into the buildings. When ready, return the way you came.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife scouted out the route from below and chose poorly. We ended up scaling a steep scree slope before picking up a faint use trail to the ruins. We spent an hour or so carefully looking around before returning to our car. Total hike time was 4.5 hours.
Books: 'Ruins Seldom Seen' by Dave Wilson
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

The main ruins.

Another smaller room.
Interior living space. Painted potsherds.